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How to make traditional King Cake

Traditional King Cake

  • Author: Liz at
  • Prep Time: 2 hrs + 20 min
  • Cook Time: 15
  • Total Time: 2hrs + 45 min
  • Yield: 1 cake


A Traditional King Cake is my favorite way to celebrate the Mardi Gras holiday. The soft and fluffy yeast dough sets the perfect foundation for a sweet, smooth frosting. Decorated with an array of purple, green and gold sprinkles, it's easy to understand why this cake is the best part of the celebration!


For the Dough

  • 1 (16oz) container sour cream
  • c sugar
  • ¼ c unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 (¼ oz) envelopes active dry yeast
  • ½ c warm water (100° to 110°F)
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs (lightly beaten)
  • 6 to 6 ½ c bread flour (all purpose can also be used!)

For the Filling

  • ⅓ cup unsalted butter (softened)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon (optional)


  • 3 c powdered sugar
  • 3 Tbsp butter or cream cheese, softened
  • 2-4 Tbsp tablespoons milk
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • Purple, green and gold sprinkles


  1. Add first 4 ingredients in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat & cool down the mixture to 100° to 110°F
  2. In a glass measuring cup or small bowl, stir together yeast, ½ cup warm water, and sugar and let stand for 5 minutes. The yeast should become foamy and be 'activated' after that time.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, add the sour cream mixture, yeast mixture, eggs and 2 cups flour. Give a quick stir with a spatula and then turn the mixer on medium speed. As the ingredients start to come together, reduce speed to low, and gradually add the remaining flour (4 to 4 ½ cups) until a soft dough forms.
  4. Once the dough forms, lower the speed setting and allow the dough to knead until smooth and elastic (this can take up to 10 minutes).
  5. Place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with a linen cloth or plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place (85° is ideal) for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
  6. After the dough is finished proofing, divide the dough in half.
  7. Roll each portion into a long rectangle using a rolling pin. Spread the ⅓ cup butter evenly on each rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border.
  8. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the butter on each dough rectangle.
  9. There are multiple ways to form the dough ring, I rolled up each dough rectangle, starting at the long side. Place one dough roll seam side down on a sheet lined with parchment. Repeat with the second roll. Pinch the tops together, and twist the dough logs over each other to give a braided look. Bring the other ends around together to form a ring, ensuring to make a good seal at the seam.
  10. Cover and let rise in a warm place again, 20 to 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
  11. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  12. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until golden.
  13. After the cake is done baking, allow to cool most of the way.
  14. Meanwhile, in a large bowl mix the glaze ingredients until smooth & creamy.
  15. Pour glaze evenly over warm cake; sprinkle with colored sugars, alternating colors and forming bands.
  16. Let cool completely & serve.


Recipe adapted from:

Keywords: king cake, mardi gras